‘Art should step out of museums and galleries': An interview with Neja Tomsic

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MoTA is a museum without physical space. Its programmes are realised in different locations and contexts, both in physical and virtual space. MoTA champions transitory art in the form of continuous events, exhibitions and educational programmes both locally and internationally. SONICA festival is conceived as a showcase of the yearly program of MoTA. It is an experimental festival that questions the ways of representation, exhibition formats, crossing borders between digital and analogue, object and performance. Each edition of SONICA brings us a display of audio-visual performances, interactive installations, lectures, digital workshops, projections, clubbing nights and public urban installations. We talked to MoTA & SONICA’s Neja Tomsic. 

Can you talk about the history of MoTA & SONICA?

MoTA started as an art-focused offshoot of another association (Codeep) that was active for almost ten years in the field of urban culture, visual communication and electronic music. We started MoTA as a residency programme (at the time there were only occasional residency programmes in Slovenia, but our aim was to create an ongoing one). After a year, we organised the first SONICA – a month long exhibition conceived as a festival. It was staged in a gallery and works were added and removed during the whole month, there were concerts, screenings and talks, and resident artists were also using the gallery as a work space. I could say that each SONICA after that was different: in terms of content, length, structure. Throughout the years we responded to things we think about and discuss, what we think is important and relevant for our time and we adapt the festival format to that. So beside having a strong focus on sound, art and technology, I can say that SONICA is a showcase of our year’s work. Meanwhile, MoTA has grown into much more than a residency programme. We are a somewhat nomadic venue in Ljubljana, and active throughout the year: we organise exhibitions, produce artworks, tour, promote and educate.

Can you talk about MoTA’s focus on ‘transitory art’. Can we interpret this focus as a reaction to the relatively static nature of these institutions in general?

Yes, definitely. Transitory art is in a way an attempt to name art opposed to contemporary or even media art – two terms that are becoming obsolete, and even more so, don’t mix. Rarely are museums of contemporary art really what their name says they are, unless contemporary art has already ended. And as art always should be explorative, curious, critical and open-ended, it also should step out of the museums and galleries, simply to stay relevant. So we always look for new contexts and forms, and we do it under the term transitory art, perhaps a bit provocatively.

Can you talk about MoTA’s background in terms of creative development and local context (the legacy of Ljubljana’s famous new media scene)?

As I said, MoTA’s background is in urban culture and throughout the years, the organisation’s mission was always to discover and revive venues and places. We therefore have a strong background in reviving public space, as well as in working internationally and locally, especially in the field of music, sound and transitory art (media art, light based art, interactive art, art and science, public space interventions, contemporary art, etc– see above). Ljubljana has a strong media art and art/science scene and quite a lot of organisations active in the field. Therefore, each organisation developed a very specific profile. We mostly work outside the gallery context or try to reframe regular exhibitions in a different way. We focus on sound art and public space and there was a time this year when five MoTA projects were installed in the streets of Ljubljana (Gerada’s Tina, the Arcade Gallery, Moonolith, Cyanometer and a Valerie Wolf Gang’s video works at the MoTA LAB).

As a culmination of MoTA’s annual programme, how is SONICA put together in terms of dramaturgy & concept each year?

Through the years (we are now organising the 9th edition), SONICA has always been different. We choose a theme and build the programme around it. The festival always has a group exhibition, concerts, a club night, workshops and talks. We had editions with symposia as well, or an edition where the exhibition was replaced with concert nights or live art forms, or where the festival was build around workshops. So it really depends.

Can you talk about this year’s programme?

This year’s SONICA will take place from 25 to 30 September. We’re opening the festival with a SONICA Classics concert with the Polish cello player Resina (who recently collaborated with SHAPE alumna Zamilska). On Tuesday we’re opening the group exhibition DIS-, which will look at various aspects of dis-integration, especially through nature and ecology, with works by SHAPE artists Andreas Trobollowitsch, Robertina Šebjanič, Mike Rijneirse, as well as Katarina Petrović, Plateau Resideau (recent TESLA awardees), and others. On Wednesday there is an audiovisual night and Friday is the main concert day and club night, where we will hear SHAPE artist Machine Woman among others, and on Saturday we plan screenings and a concert in the part with Battle-ax. For the last couple of years MoTA has been focusing on sound and media art and architecture and we are very happy to be part of the ARTECITYA platform, within which we started the Aracde Gallery – an open air sound gallery at the Central Market in Ljubljana, the Cyanometer – a monument that measures air quality and the blueness of the sky, among others. We also started working on a new project that will map and archive public spaces and monuments in five countries, and stage artistic interventions to revive them.

Photo: Iztok Medja

http://motamuseum.com/

Nik Nowak mix for Resonance Extra

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Listen to a new SHAPE mix by audiovisual artist Nik Nowak, produced for the broadcasting platform Resonance Extra.

Born in Mainz and based in Berlin, Nik Nowak‘s sound objects combine the aesthetic qualities of sculpture with utility or functional objects, and explore urban or military phenomena at play in everyday life. Nowak earned his undergraduate degree from the University of the Arts (UdK), Berlin in 2007, and studied under German artist Lothar Baumgarten. He is the recipient of several scholarships, including one for a sculpture course under Xiang Jing at Normal University in Shanghai, China. Among Nowak’s notable recent projects is “Panzer” (tank), a caterpillar-tracked minidumper which is transformed into a mobile sound system that pumps out 4000 watts of audio.  Other recent works include a diverse range of “Mobile Boosters” (portable, flexible sound systems developed in response to the increasing anonymity of life in virtual space) and “Echo,” a sound installation  in which so-called “echo drones” interact with visitors, recording their speech and playing it back in different ways.  In 2014, he was awarded the GASAG Art Prize in cooperation with Berlinische Galerie, a prize honouring an artistic position at the interface of art, science, and technology. He also curated the extremely well received exhibition “BOOSTER Kunst Sound Maschine” in collaboration with Museum MARTa Herford, which inquires into the cultural significance of mobile sound systems and their use in the creative arts.

Les Siestes Electroniques 2017 in photos and videos

Based in Toulouse, France, Les Siestes Électroniques is a summer meeting point for emerging artists from the field of adventurous music. The festival takes place annually in Toulouse and Paris, where artists have the chance to work with the collection of Museum Quai Branly. Les Siestes hosted SHAPE artists at both the Parisian and the Toulouse edition (along with SHAPE member festivals), including Céh, Ron Morelli, Dynamons, Danny L Harle and NMO. “Everything we do at Les Siestes Electroniques is an answer to the question ‘what is music today’, and actually, how we listen to it and compose it nowadays,” they said in our interview. See for yourselves below.

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Alex Augier: ‘I don’t want my projects to become technological demonstrations”

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Alex Augier is an electronic musician based in Paris. His work explores digital aesthetics in a transverse prism, including sound, visual and formal elements. These elements interact within the scenic space and take the forms of audiovisual performances. He champions a creative process where design, programming and technology are an integral part of the artistic project. His works have been presented at international festivals including Scopitone (Nantes/FR), Elektra (Montreal/CA), Digital Choc (Tokyo/JP), Manifeste (Paris/FR), Kino Beat (Porto Alegre/BR), Athens Arts Digital Festival (Athens/GR), Open Source Art Festival (Gdansk/PL), Némo (Paris/FR), and many others. 

Can you talk about your background and what led you to your interest in music/multimedia?

I’m a musician first. I play drums, piano and compose music since my childhood. I was a drummer for different bands (jazz, rock), having different musical projects. Later, I got interested in electronic music and, of course, with the use of the computer I embraced the visual part. Computers have screen and loudspeakers, stimulating the eyes and the ears at the same time, and the bridge between both became obvious with languages like Max and Processing. Of course, it’s not a coincidence. I like visuals, design, architecture, objects, multimedia expressions. My AV performances allow me to come up with something more personal.

How has the definition of audiovisual art and audiovisual artists developed over the years, and what does it mean nowadays?

I consider AV works, performances and installations if the whole is thought as a unique object with a strong coherence. Audiovisual artists have to work in this specific way where sound, visual, shape and space have to become a unique multisensory object, in which you can’t disconnect one medium from another. It’s like a good song where you can’t separate the lyrics from the melody and harmony!

You work with technology. What importance does the code/encoding/decoding play in your work ?

I like coding. I mainly use Jitter and Processing for the visual part and Max and Ableton for the sound. But I consider this part of my work as a tool.

Can you describe your work process?

I can’t describe my way of working easily because I don’t have a unique workflow. I don’t like to use the same recipe twice. For each project, I want to make something different. However, when it comes to my audiovisual works, I keep focusing on the coherence of the whole and that’s why I work on both at the same time. One medium is not an illustration of another. I try to make a unique object for both the ears and the eyes.

What role does coincidence/contingency play in your work (since you also work with modular synths, which heavily rely on chance)?

It depends on the project. In my _nybble_ project I wanted an organic aesthetic and, in this case, it’s important to add random parameters in both sound and visuals in order to create a more lively experience. But for my previous project oqpo_oooo I wanted a minimal aesthetic and randomness didn’t have a place there. That’s why I only use a laptop, monome and digital processing as Oto Machine Biscuit in oqpo_oooo, and modular synthethizer (with random modules) in _nybble_. I have to be coherent with my tools as well!

What is the role of aesthetics in your work?

I use the term aesthetic to describe the final result of my work: what I want to express and what I want the audience to experience. I conceive multimedia performances and I keep focusing on the coherence of the whole. That’s the most important!

How do you incorporate technological innovation into your work / is it at all important to you?

I like technology and I use both analogue and digital technology in the musical as well as the visual part of my work, but I don’t want my projects to become technological demonstrations. I keep focusing on the aesthetic result.  So, I have an idea of what I want on stage, the kind of music and visual elements I need, and I use adapted technology to reach my aim, but not the opposite.

What projects do you currently work on?

I’m working on different projects in collaboration with artists from different backgrounds for performances and installations: visual artists, designers, etc. And I’m working on my next EP which will be released on Franck Vigroux’s label DAC.

N[order]ISE / Multiphonic version / Interview from alexaugier on Vimeo.

Listen to Laura Luna and TeZ live at Cynetart festival

Listen to a special SHAPE double bill broadcast on London’s Resonance FM/Resonance Extra – two recordings from last year’s Cynetart festival played back to back. First, you’ll hear sounds from the performance of TeZ, an Italian audiovisual artist and member of Clock DVA, and, right after, Mexican-born  sound artist Laura Luna‘s show will follow.

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Both sets are actually sonic parts of audiovisual shows, yet they offer a very musical experience, and have been encouraged for radio broadcasting by the artists. The material by TeZ (recorded November 10, 2016) is the sound from his light/sound performance PV868, while Laura Luna’s show (recorded on the following day) was a collaboration with multimedia artist Pascal Silondi. Both performances took place at Festspielhaus Hellerau.

Maurizio Martinucci (aka TeZ) is an Italian interdisciplinary artist and independent researcher living and working in Amsterdam. He has collaborated with, among other, Adi Newton, Scanner, Kim Cascone, Saverio Evangelista, Taylor Deupree, Sonia Cillari, Chris Salter, Honor Harger, Luca Spagnoletti and Domenico Sciajno.

He uses technology as a means with which to explore perceptual effects and the relationship between sound, light and space. He focuses primarily on generative compositions with spatialised sound for live performances and installations. In his works he adopts custom developed software and hardware, featuring original sonification and visualization techniques to investigate and magnify subtle vibrational phenomena. In recent years his research has extended to the ideation and creation of specific architectural structures and unconventional sound and light propagation methods to enhance immersivity and multisensory perception.

Laura Luna Castillo is a Multimedia Artist from Mexico that currently resides in Prague, Czech Republic.

She began her artistic practice through photography, later developing an interest in video and film. While working with these mediums, she began to experiment with other forms of artistic expression that allowed her to investigate the mechanisms of memory, narratives and imagination. Within these explorations, sound became a central element of her practice, combined with her passion for machines, repetition, textures, generative narratives and the complexities of memory and associations.

Laura Luna Castillo is a Multimedia Artist from Mexico that currently resides in Prague, Czech Republic. She began her artistic practice through photography, later developing an interest in video and film. While working with these mediums, she began to experiment with other forms of artistic expression that allowed her to investigate the mechanisms of memory, narratives and imagination. Within these explorations, sound became a central element of her practice, combined with her passion for machines, repetition, textures, generative narratives and the complexities of memory and associations.

Castillo has developed different multidisciplinary projects, where different materials and technologies coexist as audiovisual performances, objects, installations and interactive works. In 2014 she released her first album, Isolarios with the label Baba Vanga, playing with processes such as feedback, error and accidental programming together with the overlaying of loops and field recordings.

Dynamons, Waclaw Zimpel, Hiele on our latest Resonance FM show

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Ilias Pitsios (aka Dynamons) is the co-founder of the Greek labels Echovolt and Into The Light. It’s been 4 years since Ilias and celebrated selector Tako Reyenga got together to form Into The Light, with their inaugural compilation of Greek Electronic Music, Classics & Rarities. Ilias Pitsios’ DJ sets are rooted in classic and leftfield dance music approaches. He performed as one of the SHAPE artists at Les Siestes Electroniques 2017 in Toulouse on 2 July.

Roman Hiele’s music surfaces in the form of hard to pinpoint electronica, built on a longtime obsession for synthetic sound creation and jazz studies. On stage, Hiele plays with expectation, going past what is considered conventional, blending improvisational and classical elements into a no-nonsense personal idiom. Hiele has released his music on the Antwerp based label Ekster. Aside from music, he’s also created film music. His latest record, a collaboration with Lieven Martens, is out now on Ultra Eczema.

Waclaw Zimpel is a classically educated Polish clarinetist. He has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, including Ken Vandermark, Bobby Few, Perry Robinson and others, and has been active in several ensembles and projects, including Hera. This ensemble aimed to research the roots of improvisation, including liturgical music, Indian traditions, African trance. His other project, Saagara, relies on powerful rhythm crafted with instruments from southern India, while in LAM, the main inspiration is the work of American minimalists.

Hiele mix for NTS Live

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Listen to a new SHAPE mix by Belgianexperimental electronic musician Hiele, created for the radio station NTS Live, based in London.

Hiele’s music surfaces in the form of hard to pin point electronica, built on a long time obsession for synthetic sound creation and jazz studies. On stage, Hiele plays with expectation, going past what is considered conventional, blending improvisational and classical elements into a no-nonsense personal idiom.

Hiele has released his music on the Antwerp based label Ekster (Ritmische Bezinning 2016, Essential Oils 2014, Hiele 2013,). In 2016, YYAA Recordings released Hiele’s performance in the Schinkel Pavilion, Berlin 2014. In November 2016, Hiele released his first OST to the documentary Saints via Ekster. In 2017 he published Lips - a collaborative record with Lieven Martens known as Dolphins Into the Future.

Track list:

Typhonian Highlife – Zenith Umbaba-Xeno
Eric Vann – Space Face
Bruno SpoeriSoft Art Theme
Fernando Falcao – Amanhecer Tabajara
The Tomb Of Malevitch
Dog Lady Island – Chopin (Ultra Eczema)
Gerard Herman – Jerry-Built Bestselling (Entr’acte)
League of Automatic Music Composers – Oakland
Ornette Coleman – Midnight Sunrise
Hiele Martens – Vrij (Ultra Eczema)
Messiaen – Premières Fusées
Operating Theatre – Dragon Path
V2 Schneider – The Bali Prayer
Cocteau Twins – Alas Dies Laughing (live)
Bloody Sirens – Live at Extra City Antwerp (Entr’acte)
Griller Quartet – Lento E Molto Expressivo
Silvestrov – La Belle Dame Sans Merci
Haruomi Hosono – Bio Philosophy
Lieven Martens Moana – Port of Spain

Click here for previous collaborations between SHAPE and NTS.